Documentaries—nonfiction motion pictures—offer a candid look at reality. An observation of life using real people in real-life scenes. The Scottish documentarian John Grierson described a documentary as the “creative treatment of actuality.” American film critic Pare Lorentz defines a documentary as “a factual film which is dramatic.” These videos are eye opening, revealing, stunning, controversial, educational and enlightening.
Documentaries created by a filmmaker at CMS serve many functions—recording the life and complex relationships of the human experience; elevating the beauty of the natural world; revealing the wonder of the cosmos and science; and exploring topical and often critical national and international issues. And, of course, expressing the artistic and creative talents of the filmmaker and scriptwriter.
Documentaries blend the talents of a scriptwriter, cinematographer, director, producer and editor. And the film’s success centers on the commitment of a media network to issues including—social, historical, disaster, political, economic and current events. Author William Bluem in Documentary in American Television says the documentary evolved from the works of photojournalists and film documentarians who, “…wished that viewers might share the adventure and despair of other men’s lives…”
One of the purest forms of documentary is Cinema Verite, “truth cinema.” Developed in the 1960’s France, Cinema Verite focuses on real people in everyday situation with actual dialogue. Natural lighting accentuates the realness of people, movements and situations without any staging for the camera.
Most documentaries produced by CMS are scripted, often with a narrator weaving the many threads of the scriptwriter/storyteller—character, plot, interviews, locations, special effects—into a compelling visual tapestry. A tapestry of storytelling to excite the imagination, open minds and hearts, and call the viewer to action.
Often the talents of an award-winning documentary scriptwriter are underrated. Most great actors, directors and cinematographers readily admit that they would have never experienced their level of success with weak scripts.